Deliberately confounding, expertly tense, and built around a tremendous Jude Law performance, “Friday — The Father” gets The Third Day off to a rollicking start.
This recap of The Third Day episode 1, “Friday — The Father”, contains spoilers.
Having watched The Third Day episode 1 on HBO, I still don’t know what it’s about, really. It’s one of those deliberately inscrutable shows that plays with genre and tone and keeps its cards close to its chest in terms of plot. I know that “Friday – The Father” stars an expressive Jude Law as Sam, supposedly a former social worker turned garden center owner who has apparently had £40,000 stolen from him and his wife’s office. The money was intended to bribe an official, and Sam spends the entire opening hour desperately trying to make a phone call to ensure that a deal goes through despite this missing money, and then at the last minute we learn that Sam had the money all along anyway. And that’s probably the least weird thing that happens.
The Third Day was co-created by Dennis Kelly, who wrote the script, and Felix Barrett; Marc Munden directs Law through the emotional territories of anxiety, befuddlement, disgust, anger, exasperation, amusement, terror, and grief, and across a waterlogged causeway only accessible now and then, and into a paranoid small-town folk-horror populated by unnerving Englanders with obvious secrets. The planned structure of this six-episode season is confounding; three blocks of three, with separate themes and lead actors. After “Friday – The Father”, you’d expect nothing less.
We know nothing – or at least very little – about Sam when we meet him, except for his money woes and his odd private rituals, some of which are explained throughout the episode. He’s out alone in the middle of nowhere until he follows the sounds of sobbing to a teenage girl being assisted in hanging herself by a male accomplice, who subsequently flees. Sam witnesses this then intervenes to save the girl, Epona (Jessie Ross), who he then offers to take home.
Home is the remote island of Osea, connected to the mainland only by a causeway that’s drivable according to the whims of the tide, where an upcoming pagan festival, Esus and the Sea, has been modernized as a music festival that’s open to everyone, including outsiders. Epona wants Sam to drop her off with Mr. (Paddy Considine) and Mrs. (Emily Watson) Martin, proprietors of the local pub, since she’s wary of her mysterious father, Jason (Mark Lewis Jones). Sam does, immediately picks up on the obvious weirdness, but ends up having to stay the night when the tide seals him in and he’s unable to get a mobile signal or find a working landline.
This all seems like a recipe for disaster, obviously. Mrs. Martin is foul-mouthed and unashamedly abusive – at least verbally – to her husband, whose performative happy-clappy demeanor suggests he’s used to it. Jason and his friends roam the place like ghouls; the psychopaths you’d have to sneak around were Sam your player-character in some kind of indie horror game. The inability to leave the island or to contact anyone outside of it is classic business, and the script contrives to ally Sam with Jess (Katherine Waterston), an American woman there for the festival, and whose room Mr. Martin mistakenly books Sam into. With nothing else to do, both get fall-down drunk with the locals, which leads Sam on a surreal vision of his dead son leading him into a dilapidated structure strewn with viscera.
See? Weird! And obviously all related in some way to the fact that Sam wakes up behind the wheel of his car with the supposedly stolen money in its trunk. This, the obvious grief he’s struggling to process for his lost son, and the creepiness of the setting and its residents, all help to paint a harrowing and confounding portrait of what’s to come. The Third Day is exceptionally weird, but it’s weird in a way that you just can’t bring yourself to look away from.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.